As our mainstream media has become absorbed in a sort of political trivia pursuit here in Canada, I decided to take a look at the upcoming general election in Britain, where for the first time a live televised political leaders’ debate occurred in a general election.
The first of three leaders’ debates occurred in mid-April with the traditionally third-place Liberal Democrats and their 43-year-old leader, Nick Clegg emerging as clear winners.
A Sunday Times poll claims Nick Clegg, who is still serving his first term in Parliament as an MP, has now become the most popular leader in Britain since Winston Churchill. The poll puts the Lib Dems in the lead with 33 per cent, one point ahead of the Conservatives, and Labour trailing with 26 per cent of voter support.
In what is now looking more and more like desperation to avoid a “hung” (minority) parliament, the leaders of the Labour and the Conservative parties are scrambling to gain some traction against the sudden surge by the Liberal Democrats just 2½ weeks before Britons cast their votes.
In 1990 here in Ontario , Liberal MP and the then leader of the provincial New Democrats, Bob Rae, was vaulted from near political obscurity to a major political breakthrough and became premier of Ontario. Nick Clegg has within his sights a much greater prize than Bob Rae’s. It is not unthinkable that this political unknown could become the next prime minister of the United Kingdom.
Here’s an extract from Wikipedia explaining a bit about Britain’s third choice:
The Liberal Democrats were formed on 2 March 1988 by merging the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The Liberals descended from the British Whig Party, the Radicals and the Peelites, while the SDP were a Labour splinter group.
Promoting social liberalism, the Liberal Democrats voice strong support for constitutional reform, civil liberties, and higher taxes for public services.
The party president’s book of office is John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, which defended individual rights while attacking the tyranny of the majority and the despotism of custom. Although the party objects to state limitations on individual rights, it does favour a welfare state that provides for the necessities and amenities of life. They support multilateral foreign policy, opposing British participation in the War in Iraq and supporting the withdrawal of troops from the country.
The Liberal Democrats are the most pro-European Union of the three main parties in the UK. The party has strong environmentalist values—favouring renewable energy and commitments to deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Since their foundation, Lib Dems have advocated electoral reform to use proportional representation, hoping to replace the House of Lords with an elected chamber.”
Not my cup of tea perhaps, but nothing outrageous here that might scare off British voters. However, I really cannot get the measure of the quality of the candidates who are representing the Lib Dems. But, assuming they have, at least, enough talent to staff a competent cabinet, we could be seeing the emergence of a force which will displace the Labour Party, pushing it into the background of British politics—and that’s a good thing from my point of view.
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© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
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